GREEN BAY, Wis. – On Tuesday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers voiced his frustration about the inconsistent and error-prone ways of the young receivers.
On Wednesday morning, before Day 2 of joint practices against the New Orleans Saints, the coaches moved the receivers meeting into the quarterbacks room.
“It’s like a parent. If you hear one thing from your parent but you hear one thing from your friend, you might do what your friend tells you,” said veteran receiver Randall Cobb, who was part of the meeting and joined with Allen Lazard in amplifying Rodgers’ thoughts.
“I’ve been saying the same thing that he said in the meeting today. It’s making sure they understand the opportunity that they have and not letting it squander away. Making sure that they’re focused on the little details in everything that we do and seeing the full picture. It’s not always about your route and what you have. It’s how you fit into the play concept and being in the right place at the right time.”
At the start of training camp, Rodgers stressed patience with the development of the team’s young receivers, including rookies Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure and second-year player Amari Rodgers. The time for patience is running low, though. In exactly three weeks, the Wednesday practice will be focused on getting ready for Week 1 at the Vikings. The time to master the playbook and earn the trust of the exacting quarterback will have passed.
After delivering a bit of a public butt-chewing on Tuesday, Rodgers played the role of teacher and assistant coach on Wednesday.
“Aaron spoke to us about what he likes or whatnot based on concepts or what he sees,” Doubs said. “He just wants us to see what he sees, so then that way we can be able to react faster, play faster and just be able to dominate and continue to be who we are.”
Said Toure: “It was just really giving us advice. Basically, letting us know that the Green Bay receiving corps has always been held to a super-high standard. All the legends how have been through here, it’s just about us carrying on that standard and stepping up.”
One thing that was stressed, according to Cobb and No. 2 quarterback Jordan Love, was getting the timing down on routes. It’s one thing to run the route the way it’s presented on the iPad playbook. It’s another thing to run that route to be exactly where you need to be at exactly the right time, whether it’s to get yourself open or to help get a teammate open.
“It’s a lot bigger than just your one-on-one matchup,” Cobb said.
Perhaps the message resonated. While Watson remains limited to individual drills following his post-OTAs knee surgery, Doubs and Toure scored touchdowns on Wednesday. Doubs’ came during a red-zone period and Toure scored a 50-yard touchdown and tacked on the two-point play to give the Packers the “victory” over the Saints in a two-minute drill.
“We definitely took it to heart,” Toure said. “As young receivers who are always looking for ways to get better, when the quarterback tells us to rise to the occasion, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
While there’s an obvious sense of urgency with only one week of training camp remaining, Cobb struck the same chord as Rodgers did a week earlier. Better to make mistakes on the August practice field than at crunch time of a game in September.
“This is what training camp’s for: To have that growth, to have that understanding, you’ve got to make mistakes to learn from your mistakes,” Cobb said. There will be steps backward, as was the case on Tuesday, but the overall trajectory is pointed the right way.
While Rodgers said players who make mistakes on the practice field won’t be on the playing field once the regular season begins, it’s probably not so simple. Those young receivers, whether it’s Week 1 or Week 18, are going to have to contribute at some point in the season. Wednesday’s meeting was meant to accelerate their development by reinforcing the fact that every little thing matters.
“There’s only one goal. There’s only one goal, and that’s to bring a championship back here,” Cobb said. “We’re going to need those guys. They’re going to play a huge role in what we’re trying to accomplish this season, and we have to make sure that they’re up to speed. I think at this point, the comments that he made yesterday, was about the urgency. There has to be an urgency in what you’re doing and getting up to speed to get to where we’re trying to go.”